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TOMATO SEEDING TIME IN MAINE. Thirty-five years ago we gave up on on risky practice of field-growing Tomatoes in Short-


TOMATO SEEDING TIME IN MAINE. Thirty-five years ago we gave up on on risky practice of field-growing Tomatoes in Short-season Maine. Rob Johnston, founder of ‘Johnny’s Selected Seeds’ here in Maine, had received a technology-transfer-grant to write up a public report about Hoophouse growing in Europe.

Inspired by that Hoophouse concept and tired of unreliable field production we became quickly enamored by the idea. With grid power to our isolated farm yet a decade away, we put together a crude direct-current-arc-welder from a 5 hp gas engine and an old car battery as had been written up in ‘The Mother Earth News.’ We salvaged three one-foot-diameter pulleys off of an old Potato harvester and fashioned them into a manual hoop bender machine

We then took twenty-foot-long 1/2″ black metal pipe and made hoops that measured 11-feet wide and six-foot-high. We welded the hoops to threaded one-inch-pipe twenty-foot-long runners. Using simple pipe couplers and three-foot-lengths of threaded pipe, we could couple together the portable 20′ Hoophouse sections to our heart’s content. We eventually stopped at four sections giving us a Hoophouse eighty-eight feet long.

We planted Tomatoes into rotated garden soil and opted for two Dutch Greenhouse Tomato varieties – “Dombo” and “Dombino”- offered by JSS. In our hey day, planting Tomatoes out in April and with a woodstove providing heat on cold nights, we harvested delicious ripe Tomatoes beginning the 4th of July. Many of the longer-season “Dombos” would weigh a pound to a pound-and-a-half and they were a hit at the Farmers Markets we attended.

Megan took this photo last Fall of Organic Tomatoes she harvested one day from our upgraded “High Tunnel.” Clockwise from Middle Left are: Organic Cherokee Purple, Organic Pruden’s Purple, Organic Cosmonaut Volkov, Organic Spreckled Roman and Organic Orange Banana.

Caleb, Megan & Jim
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MEGAN SHOWS YOU THE EASY WAY TO MAKE DELICIOUS SQUASH SOUP! Over a foot of new snow is on the ground this morning, and


MEGAN SHOWS YOU THE EASY WAY TO MAKE DELICIOUS SQUASH SOUP! Over a foot of new snow is on the ground this morning, and under clear blue skies – with a temp of +17oF – the wind is blowing that snow all around.
Sounds like a GOOD DAY to sit by a woodstove and enjoy some fresh hot bread and a bowl of fresh Organic Canada Crookneck Squash Soup!
Making Squash Soup can be simple if you know how and in this NEW Video (5:57) Megan uses the easy-to-grow Canadian Heirloom and shows you all the tricks!
Link to Video is in the Comments.
Caleb, Megan & Jim




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MEGAN’S KITCHEN RECIPES: “Beet and Carrot Soup.” With a snowstorm on the way to Maine for tonight and tomorrow, it se


MEGAN’S KITCHEN RECIPES: “Beet and Carrot Soup.” With a snowstorm on the way to Maine for tonight and tomorrow, it seems like a good time to get ready by making a nice warm soup! Megan

1 tsp Santo Cilantro seeds, toasted
1/8 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c sliced shallots (2 large)
2 English Thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
A Pinch of hot red pepper flakes

1 1/2 lbs Chantenay Carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

1/2 lb Sweet Dakota Bliss Beets, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces

4 c water

1 T red wine vinegar

Grind toasted cilantro seeds in spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook shallots with thyme, bay leaves, and red pepper, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add carrots, beets, ground cilantro, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Discard bay leaves and any tough thyme stems. Puree soup in batches in a blender until smooth, then return soup to pot. Stir in vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and additional water if needed to thin soup.

Serves 6.




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NEW WOOD PRAIRIE VIDEO! “Baking Organic Yukon Gold ” In this NEW Wood Prairie Video, Megan offers a primer on how


NEW WOOD PRAIRIE VIDEO! “Baking Organic Yukon Gold ”
In this NEW Wood Prairie Video, Megan offers a primer on how to Bake a Potato like Yukon Gold and make it come out perfect every time.
Next time you light up the oven, Bake a big batch of Potatoes and make your family a simple, filling meal.
Then, take the leftovers and reheat them for another quick meal, or slice them up and make into Home Fries!
Good eating doesn’t have to take forever to prepare.
Link for this NEW video is located in the Comments below
Caleb, Megan & Jim




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MAINE TALES. “Staying Alive.” Township D, Range 2, Unorganized Territory, Aroostook County, Maine. Circa 1978


MAINE TALES. “Staying Alive.” Township D, Range 2, Unorganized Territory, Aroostook County, Maine. Circa 1978.

“No, sir! I’m the first man off the mountain when there’s lightning!” His disarming response lacked any hesitation whatsoever and it was startling in its unbridled honesty. Totally absent was any bravado from this Maine Watchman after I had asked whether he rode out a Maine thunderstorm. He’d lived in Maine his whole life and possessed a carefulness which indicated no interest in abbreviating his current living-and-breathing standing.

As a Fire Tower Watchman he was one of a dying breed, working in an isolated and lonely profession. His post was the Number Nine Mountain Fire Lookout, located six miles due west of our farm in the westernmost portion of our Unorganized Territory Township, TD R2. At elevation 1638’ Number Nine Mountain (also known in years past as “Bald Mountain”) is the 20th highest point in Aroostook County. It is also the 517th highest mountain in Maine, and the 49035th highest mountain in the United States. But you likely already knew that.

One Summer’s day forty-five years ago we climbed the thirty-six feet of open metal staircase up to the well-windowed wooden cab mounted atop the metal Fire Tower base. As one might easily imagine, the three-hundred-sixty-degree view was spectacular from the top of Number Nine Mountain. It had been a crystal clear, blue-sky-day and we could see at least fifty miles in every direction, and that included Katahdin’s peak, not quite sixty miles to the southwest.

A visitor will often find Mainers to be characteristically quiet and humble. This quality might explain why at first meeting, unless a specific question has been raised as in “What’s your name?” one will typically receive a friendly greeting but it will be without a volunteered introduction. It’s not unreasonable to assume they know who you are, otherwise they’d ask. So accordingly, introductions in Northern Maine are few and far between. While we should have, we never did inquire and learn Mr. Watchman’s actual name. But he was a wiry, older man in his fifties, who by all appearances had lived his life outdoors and had no qualms about flying solo.

Down at the bottom of the Tower Road, situated conveniently near the outlet to nearby Number Nine Lake, stood a spare but bucolic Watchman’s camp, painted Maine Forest Service brown and green. Mr. Watchman’s family lived in the Town of Masardis, 16 miles northwest of Nine Mountain as the crow flies. Chit chatting, I expressed my imagining that at the end of the work week he would get home by taking a shortcut of logging roads to minimize the length of his commute. “No sir! I’d most surely get lost on all them logging roads.”

Instead Mr. Watchman took a circuitous route to get home. He drove the eleven miles east on the Nine Lake logging road back to U.S. Route 1 in Bridgewater. Then, twenty-five miles north on US Route 1 to Presque Isle. Then, twenty-three miles west along Highway 163 to Ashland. And then finally another twelve miles south on Route 11 to Marsardis. Here was a man of studied caution. Exactly the sort of man the Governor would want to keep careful watch over hundreds of thousands of acres of precious Maine Woods.

The fire season in Maine coincides with the period in which there’s no snow, and so runs from late Spring until Fall. Back in the heyday of Fire Towers, which started in one-hundred-years ago, there were 144 Fire Towers spread out across the State of Maine. They were built between 1905 and the 1950s. Twenty-four of the State’s Fire Towers were located here in Aroostook County, the largest and most sparsely populated County east of the Mississippi River. To this day in Maine, fifty-five Fire Towers are still standing; eight-nine are gone or have been removed.

It was 1927 that Maine made history when for the very first time anyone used an airplane as a means of forest fire detection. That nascent flight was a harbinger of changes which would eventually follow. The battle for supremacy between Fire Tower and aircraft would be drawn out over decades. The actual decline in the use of Fire Towers began back in the 1950s. By 1962, 59 Fire Towers were still in use in Maine.

By 1973, only thirteen towers were manned and that included the Fire Tower on Number Nine Mountain. At last report, only two Fire Towers remain active today in Maine. The Maine Forest Service came to conclude it was more cost effective to fly spotter planes on a regular schedule than to hire a covey of seasonal workers to tend Maine’s far flung network of Fire Towers.

The very first Fire Tower on Number Nine Mountain was a log tower built in 1914. A year later it was replaced by a cab mounted on a four-sided log-crib built twelve feet high. Trees along the peak were removed for better visibility. Communication was secured with a hand-crank battery-operated telephone connected to two phone lines: one line went southeast to Harvey Siding eight miles as the crow flies; the other went to the railroad line at Howe Brook twelve miles to the southwest.

That second wood-crib structure was replaced in 1919 with a thirty-six-foot metal tower, reinforced against strong winds by steel guy wires, and with a cab built on top. In 1958, the fourth and final Number Nine Mountain Fire Tower was erected. It was a rugged, self-standing, 36-foot metal tower with a cab and still stands to this day.

During the 1950s, telephone and electric lines were run in from Bridgewater along the Nine Lake Road. At some point, the large, old-style white-domed microwave relay – distinguishable and clearly visible for miles from U.S. Route 1 – was mounted on the roof of the Fire Tower cab to improve Maine State Police communications. You can’t miss it.

Jim




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NEW REPAIR SHOP COMING TOGETHER ON WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM IN MAINE. It takes a lot of equipment to grow and efficient


NEW REPAIR SHOP COMING TOGETHER ON WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM IN MAINE. It takes a lot of equipment to grow and efficiently handle crops of Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.

So we own a lot of farm equipment. And that equipment tends to be old, and often in need of maintenance and repair. Having an insulated Repair Shop on the farm in our cold Maine climate becomes a huge advantage.

We have been slowly converting our ‘Big Shed’ into a Repair Shop we can easily and affordably insulate. Last month Caleb and crew put up the metal ceiling and LED lights, and then set to blowing a thick layer of TimberFill insulation into the attic.

That large and imposing blue square monolith is Caleb’s two-post 7-ton ‘Atlas Car Lift’ bolted to the concrete floor. The lift is already getting a lot of use and the old mechanic’s creeper is starting to gather dust.

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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INSTALLING AND INSULATING NEW CEIVLING IN WOOD PRAIRIE ‘BIG SHED.’ This building started out as a 24-foot by 48-foot sh


INSTALLING AND INSULATING NEW CEIVLING IN WOOD PRAIRIE ‘BIG SHED.’ This building started out as a 24-foot by 48-foot shed and has been used for storing equipment and supplies, in addition to housing our Organic Grain Cleaning Line. This vantage is looking northwest.

A year or two later after building the main part, we decided to continue the east roof line and build a connected 16-foot by 48-foot Addition.

Now, the main Big Shed is being converted into a repair shop we can insulate. The sixteen-foot-tall 2×6 studwall offers a lot of height and sufficient room to fit in Caleb’s blue car hoist.

This prospect of insulating this shed is also must less costly than it would be to winterize the non-insulated Quonset Hut we’ve been using as a shop for a dozen years. Up this way Quonsets are insulated with spray foam and that hired-in-process we have come to learn is exorbitantly priced.

The white trailer at right houses the blower for the Maine-made TimberFill insulation which Caleb and crew was that day were blowing into the ceiling. The Rock Wool insulation stacked on the pallet had been used to close off what will become the heated portion from the non-insulated Addition. This Summer we’ll add vents to the attic space.

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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MEGAN’S KITCHEN RECIPES: “Homemade French Fries.” For our family, a fun occasional treat and nice variation to ‘Oven

MEGAN’S KITCHEN RECIPES: “Homemade French Fries.” For our family, a fun occasional treat and nice variation to ‘Oven Fries.’ Megan

2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6 medium), scrubbed, dried, sides squared off, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch by 1/4-inch batons

6 c peanut oil

1/4 c bacon fat, strained (optional)

Sea salt

Combine potatoes, oil and bacon fat (if using) in large Dutch oven. Cook over high heat until oil has reached rolling boil, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, without stirring, until potatoes are limp but exteriors are beginning to firm, about 15 minutes.

Using tongs, stir potatoes, gently scraping up any that stick, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer fries to thick paper bag or paper towels. Season with salt and serve immediately.




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